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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Coleman Tops Fennimore 27-26 for D3 State Title

Issue Date: March 11, 2020

Half a week later, Coleman wrestlers' heartbeats may finally be returning to normal.

The Cougars won the WIAA Division 3 state championship in dramatic fashion on Saturday. Wrestling 14 matches against reigning champion Fennimore wasn't enough to separate the teams in the championship match, nor were the first eight tiebreakers.

After the match was over, with the score tied at 26, the coaches and referees gathered at the scorer's table to go through the tiebreaker criteria. The moments were tense as the coaches heard the first eight tiebreakers, including penalties against coaches and wrestlers, total wins, pins, forfeits and disqualifications, technical falls and major decisions. All were equal. It was the ninth tiebreaker, greater number of first points scored, that did it. Coleman had 14, Fennimore had 13.

Coleman coach Kevin Casper said he was talking to his statistician, but neither of them were sure what all of the tiebreakers were.

"I was asking her and I knew that pins was the same, tech falls was the same, there were no majors and after that, I don't know. We're just going to find out when they do it," he said.

Right after the ninth tiebreaker was announced, the Fennimore coach briefly reacted like his team had won. After a brief pause, officials confirmed that Coleman won and from there it was "pure elation," Casper said.

The emotions of their coaches were all the wrestlers and fans had to go off of, as they were out of earshot.

"I was almost crying because I thought we were going to lose it after seeing the Fennimore coach start clapping, but I was so nervous. It was the most nervous I've ever been there."" Coleman senior John Bieber said. "That's going to be the memory of my life for I don't know how long. Ending it like that, that was awesome. Words can't explain it."

Bieber was a big part of the Cougars' 11th team state title in their 16th appearance at state, the team's first since 2014.

In the championship match, he beat Logan Klaas in the 195-pound weight class. Klaas went to state this season in the 285-pound weight class, while Bieber was third at state at 182. Klaas showed his strength against Bieber, getting him to his back at one point, but Bieber got out of it and got a 6-5 win.

"I got put to my back, but I came back," Bieber said. "He was a strong kid, but I rolled him out and I did what I do - win."

Bieber was wrestling a bit above his normal weight, but Casper shared Bieber's confidence, saying he was confident Bieber "can beat anybody."

Moving Bieber up meant slotting Coby Den Ruyter in at 182. Casper said Den Ruyter "fights like crazy," so he was confident it wasn't going to be a pin. Den Ruyter ended up losing in a 19-2 tech fall.

"Obviously if he gets pinned, we lose, so the thought was that he might not get pinned and Jonny, I felt can beat anybody anyway, whether it's that kid or the 182-pounder, who I think is a state qualifier as well," Casper said. "We just thought that would be our better chance of scoring more points or not giving up as many."

At the end of the day, it might have been the losses that won the day for Coleman. Only one Cougar was pinned in the match. Those points saved by various Cougars helped the team keep the team close and ultimately get the win.

"These kids wrestled with so much heart and so much fight, it's unbelievable - not giving up some of those majors, they were just as important as those guys who got a pin or won the the match. It was crazy," Casper said. "I think we had four kids that stayed away from giving up bonus points by one or two and that won us the match, ultimately."

Often, wrestling can be an individual sport, but for the Cougars, this was a team win.

"It was awesome because they work that hard all year," Bieber said of his teammates fighting off pins, tech falls and major decisions. "They didn't get pinned, they fought their hardest because they wanted a state championship just as bad as the rest of us, so it was awesome. It means a lot."

After Bieber's decision win, Shamus McLain got Coleman's only pin of the match, a 51-second win over Cameron Winkers. That gave the Cougars a 20-11 lead.

McLain was wrestling up from his usual 195-pound weight class, but that didn't phase the senior, as he stepped up to the plate, just like many of the Cougar wrestlers did on the day.

"It's something I do almost every dual. I'm used to it, so I assumed coach was going to have me do that," he said. "I'm always prepared to bump up and wrestle heavier guys."

To get to that 20-11 lead, Karson Casper (138) beat Maximos Miles to start the match by 15-0 tech fall and Sam Kuchta (145) beat state qualifier Aidan Nutter by 5-2 decision to give Coleman a 8-0 lead to start the match, but Fennimore's Mason Lull, the states third place finisher at 145, beat Owen Kinzinger (152) by 5-1 decision and state place winner Nick Blaschke (160) beat Jacob Horton by 3-2 decision to make it 8-6. Coleman's Cole Klimek (170) beat Mason Miles by 4-3 decision and state qualifier Will Ahnen (182) of Fennimore beat Den Ruyter by tech fall.

Fennimore cut the lead to three when 220 lb. state silver medalist Aaron Ragels beat Spencer Karban (285) by 8-2 decision. Ray Lemieux (106) scored a 6-4 win over Brett Birchman for Coleman. Two more of Fennimore's state qualifiers posted victories. Jayden Glasbrenner (113) topped John Nowak by 7-0 decision and Luke Blair beat Chance Gruber who was wrestling up a weight class, 6-0 at 120.

That made it possible for Coleman's Will Bieber to close it down with a major decision or better, with his team leading 23-20. Bieber came close, but coach Casper said he thought Bieber got a bit tired trying to overpower Macoy Fitzgerald. Up 7-1, Bieber missed on a takedown and Fitzgerald got a takedown, leaving Bieber with an 8-3 win and Fennimore's 132 lb. state champion Alex Birchman tied things up with a pin of Noah Chang in three minutes, 25 seconds. It was Chang's first action of the season.

That led to the tiebreakers and eventually, Coleman's dramatic win.

"It was unbelievable that's for sure," said Coach Casper. "Not sure many other people thought we could do it but the great thing is this Team thought they could. I would think this will go down as one of the best duals ever in State History especially when the tie was broken way down the list. Every single thing that happened in those 14 matches mattered."

To get to that match Coleman had to beat Random Lake, another really good wrestling team, in the semifinals.

The Cougars took a commanding 40-18 lead with three weight classes to go, so they took three forfeits and won 40-36 to move on.

In that match, Coleman got eight wins, starting with Will Bieber (132), who pinned Skylar Koch in 1:07, Karson Casper (138), who pinned Parker Scholler in 1:26 and Sam Kuchta (145), who beat Hayden Scholler by 21-8 decision.

Starting the match that way was big, even if Random Lake won the next three matches, all by pin.

After Random Lake got all 18 of its points with pin wins by Joey Bock (152), Aiden Vandenbush (160) and Samuel Schwabe (170) over Jakob Horton, Ramiro Cortez and Klimek, respectively, the Cougars won five straight matches to seal it.

Bieber (182) beat Brock Upson 7-1, Den Ruyter (195) pinned Miguel Acuna in 28 seconds, McLain (220) pinned Owen Kies in 42 seconds, Karban (285) pinned Jordan Arendt in 3:30 and Lemieux (106) beat Mark Szombathelyi by 4-0 decision.


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